When the Huffington Post reported last night that David Gregory would be the next host of Meet The Press, all the other online news sites treated it as a rumor. Then today Politico ran the same story, citing anonymous sources, and everyone accepted it as a confirmed fact. Why? It's just the new rules of online sourcing at work. The outsourcing of sourcing!
In classic journalism, rumors had to be double-sourced before, say, a newspaper would run with them. So you get a tip, then you have to find some other person who would know to agree with it. That person should not be the original tipster. Pretty simple.
But everything is new and different now! Online "news" outlets are not all as professional as we are around here. Rumors pop up everywhere online, all the time. But here's the key difference between now and the old days: if a rumor is reported online, people tend to treat it as a rumor until it's reported somewhere else. Then, two places have it up separately, and ta-da! It's the internet version of double-sourcing. It doesn't necessarily require any enterprise on the part of lazier blogs—just wait until two places report it, and it's gold! No actual sources necessary!
The difference, which you might have caught: both of those places may be getting tipped by the same source. It happens all the time! Furthermore, that source could be unreliable or a nut with a vendetta, but simply by spreading their tips around, they can easily make it appear that news has been confirmed everywhere. This is one reason it's important that all the actual working reporters not be laid off.
So online news outlets can't be trusted, right? Wrong! We get news out faster, and the scrupulous ones among us still check things out, or make clear exactly what the sourcing is on rumors.
Unlike the mainstream media, sometimes!